BEAUFORT — The Carteret County Board of Commissioners has agreed to deed about 5 acres of county-owned land in Mariners Park in Sea Level to the Down East Fire Department so the agency can pursue a federal grant to construct a new station there.
During the board’s regular monthly meeting July 19, commissioners continued discussions that began at a budget meeting June 7 about the need for a new fire station to serve areas Down East. Commissioners have pointed out the existing stations that make up the Down East Fire Department – Sea Level, Atlantic, Stacy and Davis – flood frequently, and a new station could allow the department to consolidate operations in a more centralized location.
Mark Shouse, chairperson of the County Fire and EMS Commission, shared at the special June meeting the fire commission had preliminarily discussed the possibility of a new station, but hadn’t proceeded with any plans because the department lacked the land and funds needed for such a project.
County Commissioner Chris Chadwick, who represents Down East among other areas, said in June he had looked into a federal grant opportunity through the U.S. Department of Agriculture that may be able to fund most or all of construction costs for a new station. However, he’d been informed by grant administrators the Down East department would need land in its own name before it could proceed with applying for the grant. He suggested carving out a few acres of land the department was eyeing in Mariners Park for the project.
“You’ve got to have the property to apply for the grants, that’s why the chicken and the egg (scenario) comes into play, we’ve been bouncing this back and forth,” Mr. Chadwick said during the commissioners’ discussions July 19. “(The Down East Fire Department has) got to have the property in their name to apply for these grants.”
Mr. Shouse returned in July to share that the fire/EMS commission voted during a meeting June 28 to recommend the county deed 4.9 acres in Mariners Park for the site of a future fire station.
“What we were presented at the meeting was a rough building sketch, the plot, the land, there was discussion about the septic system and that was pretty much it,” Mr. Shouse said last week. “There’s no specifics on the building itself, there’s no detailed plans yet, I think that’s something that’s going to have to come. They’re going to have to develop all that information prior to going to USDA or any of these other agencies as far as money goes.”
Commissioner Mark Mansfield said although he supports the effort to build a new fire station Down East, he didn’t want to hand over the land until an engineer or other professional developed a more specific site plan for the project. For that reason, he abstained from voting on the motion made by Mr. Chadwick to deed the 4.9 acres of land to the department.
“I’d want to see it from an engineer before I agreed to anything, me personally, I just don’t know if that’s appropriate to do,” Mr. Mansfield said. “…I don’t think we need to give away anything more out of the park than is required.”
Under the board’s bylaws, an abstention constitutes a voter in favor of the motion. As such, Mr. Chadwick’s motion passed 7-0, and included a stipulation the property revert back to the county after four years if the department doesn’t construct a new station on the site within that time. The land would also revert back to the county in the future if it ever ceases to be used for a fire station.
Mr. Shouse said though the project is still in the earliest planning stages, the hope is the new station would be built on higher ground to prevent flooding and become Down East’s primary fire station. He said ideally, if the new station is built, the department would be able to close the existing Sea Level and Stacy stations and turn Atlantic and Davis into substations.
Contact Elise Clouser at email@example.com; by phone at 252-726-7081 ext. 229; or follow on Twitter @eliseccnt.